Although we signed up for a customized Lisbon culinary tour with Lazy Flavors, we actually received a two-for, with a walking tour of the historic Graça neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal. I was the perfect way to experience Lisbon.
The Views From Graça
Graça is one of Lisbon’s oldest suburbs, on a hill top that seems to tower over the rest of Lisbon’s hills and valleys. It is a few blocks northeast of the Sao Jorge castle, and is kind of a hike to get to. Don’t do what we did. Take the famous number 28 tram. We walked. By the time we climbed the stairs and narrow passageways to the top, we were exhausted. We rarely take advantage of public transportation in a city like Lisbon, as we prefer to walk everywhere, and use that as our exercise. But, there is a metro, a tram system, and the hop on hop off tourist buses that can get you around town.
When we finally reached the peak of Graça, after failing to take advantage of any transport options, we stopped at a cake shop for a coffee and a pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese cream dessert. We figured we would then head to the square, Largo da Graça, near our meeting point, to rest on a bench before our Portugal food travel tour, but Mariana and Veronica were waiting for us there already. No rest for the weary.
The Traditions of the Graça Neighborhood
Graça seemed to me to be one of the least touristy parts of Lisbon. In an environment where people try to find the off the beaten path destinations in any city, Graça certainly delivers. So much so, that I hesitate to tell people about it. I would have loved to spend more time there, but it was just so uphill!
We took in the panoramic views over the city, a perfect place to capture stunning photos of Lisbon. We talked about the history of Lisbon, and the neighborhood. Mariana and Veronica got us on a good day. Generally, when we have been traveling solo together, with only each other to speak with, we tend to talk up a storm with any English speaker we encounter. They were both good sports, though, and we alternated between talking about ourselves and our travel experiences, with the history and modern trends of the Graça neighborhood.
Subsidized Housing in Graça
We toured a few of the historical subsidized housing projects from the early 20th century. These are subsidized housing developments very different from those in the States. Instead of the government helping out, it was industrialists and factory owners providing housing for their workers in the city. And, also unlike in the States, this subsidized housing was well thought out, artistic, and now, historically preserved.
We wandered the narrow streets of Graça together, the four of us. With Eric and I gawking at the impressive tile work, which is characteristic of Lisbon. We stopped for a bright pink meringue at a bakery. We continued to walk, uphill and down, learning about the history of Graça.
The Literary History of Graça
There are numerous literary passages within Graça, which highlight the artistic history of the neighborhood. We learned the history behind some of the artistic street art, some of which highlights the strength of women artists in the Graça neighborhood.
We stopped to admire art that was inspired by the poetry of Mariana Dias Coutinho. Although this is a part of Lisbon history that we most likely would have walked right by normally, on our Lazy Flavors tour of Graça, we were drawn in by the deep set eyes, which seemed to follow us as we walked up the inclined alleyway.
To give even more character to the neighborhood, we wandered past bakeries that had been in business for generations, famous fishmongers, butchers with deep red and inviting meats of every variety, and even a shop that specialized in traditional Portuguese products, representing a new trend to buy local. Very local.
This was a part of Lisbon we never would have wandered into alone, and certainly we would not have understood the significance of the history and architecture, without our tour with Lazy Flavors.
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Lazy Flavors supported us during this afternoon food tour and historic Graça tour, but as always, my opinions are my own. A customized Lisbon culinary tour from Mariana and Lazy Flavors starts at 95 Euros.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.